It’s not a stretch to claim that the Breaks Interstate Park, located between Haysi, Virginia and Elkhorn City, Kentucky, is one of the most unique state parks in the eastern United States. The Breaks (as locals call it) is one of the few state parks anywhere in the nation that straddles two states – hence the “interstate” term in the park’s name – being situated on the state line separating Kentucky and Virginia.
Breaks Interstate Park is not just unique because of its location in two states, though. The park also gets its name from a geographical feature in Pine Mountain, the 125-mile long ridge running from Jellico, Tennessee to Elkhorn City. Its here at the park that a literal break forms in the imposing structure of Pine Mountain, allowing for the passage of the Russell Fork River – an Ohio River headwater tributary – to flow from the south (Virginia) side of the mountain into Kentucky to the north. The resulting erosion from the river running through this passage has created a stunning gorge, complete with impressive rapids, rugged cliffs, and sweeping vistas.
The park itself is well-developed and offers both frontcountry (a lodge, swimming areas, a campground and cabins) and backcountry (hiking, mountain biking, and rafting) destinations. Info on all of these attractions can be found at the park’s website. It’s really the park’s hiking destinations, though, that steal the show. While some trails meander around the top of the gorge, others plunge directly into it. The park’s strenuous River Trail, for example, descends all the way down the face of the gorge to the Russell Fork, returning up a tributary to the gorge’s time. Still other trails, like the Prospector’s and Geological Trails, dip just below the lip of the gorge and feature incredible geological formations that have been shaped by eons of erosion within the gorge. We plan to feature full hike summaries from the Breaks here in the future, but for now check out the park map here or see the video below (from EKB News) for an overview of the scenery on the park’s scenic Prospector’s Trail.